Gov. Neil Abercrombie may be asked to sign legislation that would give the state Senate reasons to impeach him.

Not Abercrombie specifically.

But Senate Bill 229 would spell out possible causes for impeachment of a governor, lieutenant governor and appointed officers.

SB 229 passed Senate Judiciary and Labor on Wednesday and now awaits a floor vote and likely crossover to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Chairman Clayton Hee called the measure “a good bill.”

Nothing To Do With Abercrombie

Article III, section 19 of the Hawaii State Constitution addresses impeachment but says very little.

Approved during the 1978 Constitutional Convention, it gives the House of Representatives “the sole power of impeachment” of the governor and lieutenant governor, and the Senate “the sole power to try such impeachments.”

Section 19 also says this:

The governor and lieutenant governor, and any appointive officer for whose removal the consent of the senate is required, may be removed from office upon conviction of impeachment for such causes as may be provided by law.

SB 229 states that current law “is absent of statutory provisions establishing the causes, manner, and procedure” of removal of a governor, LG and officers by impeachment.

The bill was introduced by Majority Policy Leader Les Ihara Jr., who also sits on Judiciary and Labor.

“The constitutional provision on impeachment is not self-executing,” said Ihara. “An implementing statute is needed.”

Ihara said the legislation had nothing to do with Abercrombie.

‘Treason, Moral Turpitude’

Under the proposed legislation, the causes of possible impeachment would be as follows:

• treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors;
• misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance; or
• moral turpitude

The Hawaii chief justice would preside over any trials, and a two-thirds Senate vote would be required for conviction.

Impeachment would be limited to removing and disqualifying someone for office, “but the person convicted may nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment as provided by law.”

Much of SB 229 addresses the impeachment of appointive officers, which Ihara said refers to top positions like Cabinet members.

The House would have the power “at any time” to appoint a committee to investigate charges against officers. During the investigation, the officer would not be allowed to perform their duties and the governor would have to appoint a replacement.

Trial witnesses could be called and compensated for travel and attendance. There would even be court reporters, with the state picking up all expenses.

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